To say that this pandemic has been challenging for all of us is an understatement. Kids and adults from all walks of life face everyday struggles to survive. Truth be told, what we are experiencing right now will forever be etched in human history.
Students had to adapt to online-based learning because it is unsafe to conduct face-to- face classes. Instead of meeting their classmates and teachers in their respective schools, they have to endure long hours attending virtual classes. If I were to mention all of their daily battles, this page wouldn’t even suffice.
But the 20-year old student filmmaker Benhur Queqquegan from Polytechnic University of the Philippines found the silver lining despite all the chaos. While studying as a Political Economy student, he was able to successfully write and direct a film entitled “Kitang Kita.”
The film revolves in the story of Queenie, a freshman college student who carries the responsibility of her family’s survival amidst the pandemic. According to Benhur, the main inspiration for the film is the current situation of the society, especially from a struggling student’s perspective.
“Even before the pandemic, there are already a lot of burdens on students, and when the pandemic hit, the existing burdens became much greater. There are a lot of problems in the educational sector that need to be addressed, and these are all intersectional with the issues of health, livelihood, and rights. We want to tell a story about the struggles we are facing right now in the middle of a pandemic. The story and characters might be fictional, but these are rooted from real-life happenings that many of us are experiencing right now. We also do not just want to tell, but rather affect the audience, and later on find ways to address the issue tackled in the film.”
But just like any other filmmaker, producing a film entails a lot of challenges, not to mention, filmmaking in a time of pandemic.
“As the director, I really had a difficult time like in terms of rehearsals and the shooting day itself. The situation we have right now really made things harder. We had rehearsals online only. When it comes to the shooting day, we just had limited time, resources, and even manpower.”
He also shared with The Film Dream that he really had a hard time conceptualizing the story. He is actually a member of PUP’s Sining Lahi-Repertory, a theater group in their university, and he was first tapped to be a scriptwriter and later on took the responsibility of becoming the film director. Since most of his experience came from theater, he felt that directing a film is an opportunity to explore, to go out of his comfort zone. Thankfully, he managed to execute everything until the end.
Being a neophyte in this field, Benhur is absolutely resilient and determined. Even if he lacks the experience in filmmaking, it didn’t stop him from directing his first film and participating at the “Ikaw Bilang Kamera: A Short Film Festival” joined by different schools and universities in the country where his film “Kitang Kita” won fifth Best Picture and the Best Actress awards respectively, out of the 18 participating films.
All the efforts truly paid off but did you know that even before he decided to give filmmaking a go, the stars seemed to be aligning for him even when he was younger. He confessed that back in high school, he really enjoys watching movies and thought of becoming a film director as well someday. Fast forward to this year, he finally made it happen!
“I already love watching movies especially when I was in junior high school. Most of the time, whenever we have school projects where we have to perform or show something, I always take the lead. Then, SHS and College came, I have become a part of a theater organization, and that really ignited the fire to create and tell stories.”
This Manila native student filmmaker also said that if there’s someone he really considers his idol when it comes to storytelling, Benhur shared that is no other than the master storyteller, Ricky Lee, and he considers Jun Lana as his favorite Filipino film director because of his movies “Barber’s Tale” and “Die Beautiful.” And of course, his friends and the organization where is a part of impacted him the greatest in the field of storytelling.
On the other hand, when asked about his advice to his fellow student filmmakers, Benhur emphasized:
“Just like you, I am a beginner. Just continue no matter what and never give up especially if this is something you really want to pursue. Always remember the very essence of the thing that we do-- to tell stories effectively and convey messages empathetically. The stories and messages are not just about us. Let us put the real life situations and people above all. This is about them and making them heard.”
At a very young age, Benhur Queqquegan has shown us all that it takes courage and grit to achieve our aspirations. In fact, if given another chance, he would like to tell more stories of real people and include an in-depth look on our political, economic, and psychological issues. After all, he is a Political Economy student, who says he can’t juggle both worlds?
You can make things happen. All you need is to step out of your comfort zone.
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